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mediation and conflict mediation
before marriage
by Matt Kramer

A Handbook for Creating and Sustaining
Powerful, Intimate & Loving Relationships


Foreward by Gerald Rafferty, Ph.D.
Contributions by Kenneth Cloke, Cynthia Whitham,
Heidi Tuffias and Rennie Gabriel.

"Prior to my first marriage, my ex-husband and I received
a pre-marital questionnaire from the Catholic Church.
I should have gotten the hint when he refused to answer the questions."
Anonymous

"If love is blind, then marriage is an eye opener..." Lois Troxell



Conversations before marriage


"Conversations Before a Marriage" has been
serialized at the Wedding Channel's web site.


Reviews

How to confront difficult problems
May 23, 2001
Reviewer: Midwest Book Review
Oregon, WI USA

We live in a time when half of all American marriages end in divorce despite the wealth of communication technologies and advances in our understanding of human psychology.

In Conversations Before A Marriage, Mediation & Conflict Management Services founder Matt Kramer helps the reader break down the barriers to communication through exercises and informative instruction:

  • How to confront difficult problems inherent in and experienced by every adult relationship
  • ...and to lay the groundwork for a long and happy marriage.

Conversations Before A Marriage is fervently recommended reading for anyone contemplating entering into marriage, as well as those who are married and seeking to strengthen their marital bonds.



Before You Say 'I Do' to ANYONE, Read This Book with Them
March 25, 2001
Reviewer: E. J. CAMPFIELD
Los Angeles, CA

This book is a gem, authored by a skilled professional mediator.
A battery of sometimes pointed, practical and important questions you should ask your future spouse concerning a wide range of topics that can cause problems in a marriage relationship:

  • money
  • children
  • work
  • religion
  • sex
  • friends & relatives
  • pets
  • cultural differences
  • personal habits
  • ...and styles of dealing with conflict.

(These questions)...gets it all out in the open with helpful guides for dealing with the information revealed.
Additional exercises in honest and effective communications, forgiveness and handling anger before it becomes destructive.

They should teach this stuff in high school -- it would serve young people better throughout their lives than much of the academic curriculum they 'learn' and instantly forget.

I am a secular minister and wedding officiant in the Los Angeles area, and I encourage all the couples I marry -- regardless of their age or experience in relationships -- to work through the enlightening exercises in this book.



Stop! Before going to the altar: Read this book!
June 27, 2000
Reviewer: Ma6no@msn.com
New Orleans, Louisiana

What a valuable book!
It should be required reading for all those who apply for a marriage license.
It helps young (and old) lovers focus on the realization that the honeymoon doesn't last forever; eventually reality steps in. Love doesn't conquer all, and better to discuss the problems before the marriage rather than after the divorce.

The book is written in a wonderful manner which encourages dialogue on various situations which may affect the union at some point in the future. Obviously the book cannot anticipate or address every possible event. However it does set up a system for putting any potential problems on the table before the wedding.
The book is encased in a cheerful, colorful bookcover.
The cover alone deserves an award.
The content within as well.


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Part I
  • An Invitation to Join the Conversation
  • Communication About Relationships
  • How do we handle Conflict?
  • How do we handle Money?
  • Children
  • Work
  • Religion
  • Home
  • Leisure Time
  • Sex & Gender Roles
  • Friends & Relatives
  • Cultural Differences
  • Pets
  • Transportation
  • Personal Habits and Appearance
  • Miscellaneous

Part II
  • Introduction
  • 16.) Observations from Failed Relationships
  • 17.) Getting Started
  • 18.) Before You Ask The Questions
  • 19.) Communication - Tools and Observations
  • Active Listening
  • 'I' Messages
  • Paranoid Fantasies
  • Constructive Self Criticism
  • Conscious, Non-Judgmental Communication
  • Understanding, Handling Anger
  • Forgiveness
  • The Opportunities of Conflict
  • Marriage - Yesterday and Today


An Invitation to Join the Conversation

As an author, I am taking an approach writing this book that may seem somewhat unusual.
The questions contained herein have been used successfully in many mediations and counseling sessions. I know that they are effective under circumstances in which a trained facilitator is coaching the participants.
This being a first release printing, I do not yet have a comparison between receiving this information in a professionally facilitated session versus reading and acting upon these concepts independently without the assistance of a mediator, therapist or relationship counselor.

I am inviting you to consider this an opportunity to transcend the traditional author-reader relationship.

In writing this book, I have said my piece. As is ideal in any relationship, I would like to hear what you have to say in response.

  • What you have learned from this book?
  • How did it affect you?
  • In terms of what you were expecting, was anything left out?
  • Were any of the issues uncomfortable to discuss?
  • How did you handle those issues?
  • What additional questions would you like included?


I would like to learn from you. I welcome your feedback and any stories you would like to share about the process of exploring these questions.

Welcome to the conversation.

Short Intro to Get Started
The book is structured in a manner that I believe suits most people, starting off with the questions first. You don't have to wade through an introduction and a prologue, you can just dive right into the good stuff. For those of you who like introductions and prologues, these are placed after the questions.

After some discussion, I agreed that it would be best for you to begin by answering the questions alone. You will probably encounter questions that you haven't considered asking yourself before and you might want to explore your own responses before you share them with your partner. After you've perused the material, you can read our suggestions to help you broach difficult questions. Ideas and exercises are offered to make the process enjoyable and valuable as you expand the boundaries of your relationship.

1.) Communication About Relationships

  • "Why am I getting married?"
  • "How will marriage affect our relationship?"

Historically, these questions might be asked more often than the others.

Another way to explore these thoughts could be to ask:

  • "How will my life be if I never get married?"
  • "How do I think I would feel?"

A way to investigate the source of the expectations to be married:

  • "What would my family and friends say?"
  • "How important are their opinions in this regard?"

2.) What are your expectations of me as your spouse?

In asking numerous couples if they ever discussed this question, very few said yes. Most people assumed that their own expectations were shared by their spouse to be. Often people don't know what some of their expectations are until they are not met. The shock or surprise of an unmet expectation often feels like betrayal, even if it was never discussed. This may be one of the most critical issues of any marriage.

3.) What do I need for each of us to feel safe in the relationship?

Another way to ask this question is, "What makes us feel unsafe in a relationship?" The list could involve feelings of abandonment, jealousy, lack of acknowledgment, lack of trust, being yelled at, being judged, being lied to, not being treated with respect, etc. Add whatever actions or feelings that feel threatening or unsafe to you. To feel safe, you would need to not experience those things from your mate. Then consider what you do need to experience trust, confidence, the freedom to make a mistake without being judged, the freedom to be yourself (Which means not having to live up to someone else's expectations).

The following questions will assist you in more deeply exploring this issue:

  • When someone tells you they love you, what do you think they want from you?
  • When you feel love for someone, what do you want from them in return?

4.) What do I need to feel safe in communicating honestly?

How can I discuss potentially uncomfortable subjects?

If I disagree with your point of view, do you judge me?

How do you feel judged by me when I do not agree with you?

If my behavior disappoints you or does not live up to your expectations, how will you let me know?

Is there such a thing as being too honest?e other. Then make a list of the things about whiconship, I was told, "Oh, I didnvations, and your partner has acknowledged and respected them, you will find that these issues will not weigh on you as heavily as they do when they are suppressed or avoided.

5.) How do I handle issues that have different priorities for each of us?

Exercise in Problem Solving:

She: "How can you think about going to a football game when my sister is in the hospital about to deliver her first child?"

He: "Why is it so important for me to be there? Your sister has plenty of family around and I'm not a doctor. It may be hard for you to understand this but my boss expects me to be at this game, our clients gave us box seats, they will be there and how I participate can affect my future with the company."

Exercise 1:
Imagine that you are the couple having this conversation. Try your hand at role playing. Choose your roles (for an interesting and often enlightening switch, consider changing genders) and work on getting to resolution. If you find that you are not making much progress, considering changing the way you're approaching the discussion. More than likely, you're arguing your point of view. Instead of both of you defending and arguing, try to understand why the needs of the other are valid in their point of view. Instead of focusing on the problems, see how many solutions you can offer. If a proposal doesn't work, whenever possible, respond first by identifying what parts of the proposed solution does work.

Exercise 2:
Taking cues and circumstances from your own life, project a future conflict and see how the two of you would approach a solution. And don't tell me I'm crazy to tell you to do this, the best way to get good at any skill is to practice. Constructive conflict resolution takes skill and discipline, when you get good at it, you'll have the ability to enjoy conflict as opportunity instead of obstacle.

6.) Which decisions need to be made jointly and which can be made unilaterally?

To really research this question, you might list expectations, activities and obligations first.
If you're going out for dinner, does one always decide where to go? If the bills outweigh the income, how will it be decided which bills don't get paid?

7.) What kind of behavior makes you feel disrespected?

Do I ever make you feel that way?
Question 7 lays the foundation to answer Questions 8 and 9.

How do you feel when you're interrupted, when your questions are not answered, when it seems as though you are talking without being heard or acknowledged; when your partner is late and you don't get a phone call; when someone lies to you, gossips about you or doesn't look you in the eye? When someone yells at you, hits you, says things that make you feel embarrassed in front of others? When someone, without consulting with you, acts upon their assumptions about what you like or don't like? When you're given advice when you just want someone to listen to you?

8.) If I could do one thing to improve our relationship, what would it be?

9.) If I were to ask you to consider one idea of mine to improve our relationship, would you consider.....?

10.) How do I handle manipulative or leading questions: "Honey, don't you agree that.....?" or "Isn't our baby the cutest baby you've ever seen?"

This can be a subtle situation when one party presents an opinion as though there's no other acceptable choice. Find out as soon as possible if you can create choice for yourself:

Party A: "I think she's disgraceful, don't you agree?"

Party B: "Do I have the option to disagree?"

Or try responding with an open ended question:

Party B: "Would you tell me what you mean by disgraceful?"

11.) How do you know I love you?"

What signs did we each pick up early in the relationship that led us to believe that we were being considered in a loving way?

12.) What is Love?"

Don't peek before giving your answer.


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